With the new season only a few weeks away, the transfer rumours are coming thick and fast. Throughout the window, we will have a mini-series of Focus Fives taking a closer look at players that have been linked to Fulham and rating whether they would be worthwhile signing.
Josh Walford has given his verdict over the first five. Youssouf Sabaly, Ethan Ampadu, Terence Kongolo, Ryan Babel and Ainsley Maitland-Niles…
Youssouf Sabaly is a Senegalese international currently playing for the French side Bordeaux. He is 27 years old and mainly plays as a right back, however, he has been known to cover at left back if required. Sabaly only managed 12 appearances for a side that finished 12th in the Ligue 1 last season. He was developed through the PSG academy but was never preferred in the first team for the French powerhouses. After a series of loans beginning in 2013, he found a permanent home at Bordeaux in 2017.
This isn’t the first time that we’ve been linked to the fullback either. We tried to sign him on deadline day in the 2019 January Transfer Window but Bordeaux played hardball with reports suggesting that they stopped answering our calls during the final hours to avoid selling with no time to replace him. Which makes it an interesting link this time around and certainly one to keep an eye on.
I think it is fair to say there has been a void at right back ever since Ryan Fredericks left the club to join West Ham. Despite both Denis Odoi and Cyrus Christie providing decent performances in the Championship, they have never quite hit the heights that Fredericks did during his time with Fulham. The Premier League is ruthless and we will need a robust defence if we have any chance of staying up. Right back is definitely a position I would be targeting in this transfer window. Somebody with Premier League experience would be ideal, I think Sebaly would be a risk because many quality players have failed to adapt to the pace of football in England. Without seeing a great deal of him playing it is difficult to judge, is signing somebody outside of England worth the risk?
Worthwhile Rating – 5/10
Ethan Ampadu is a Welsh International currently on the books at Chelsea. He is only 19 years old but has already made 15 appearances for his country. Our West London rivals decided to loan him out to RB Leipzig last season, however, the teenager failed to gain first-team experience featuring only three times. He is another product of the Exeter City academy but is yet to break through at Chelsea.
According to reports, we look like favourites to secure a year-long loan of Ampadu due to relegated Norwich pulling out of the race. Again, I believe that centre back is certainly a position we need to strengthen in to bolster our chances of surviving in the upcoming season. The youngster is a slightly unknown entity in that he has little first-time experience but must be highly rated to first, get the move to Chelsea, then get a loan move to Champions League side Leipzig. At 19 I would say it is worth a punt, especially due to the deal looking like a year-long loan. If not as a starter then definitely handy as a back up with Ream not getting any younger.
Worthwhile Rating – 5/10
Terence Kongolo is a 26-year-old Dutch footballer currently at Huddersfield Town. Kongolo has four full Dutch caps to his name and was part of the squad that came third at the 2014 World Cup, aged just 20. He rose through the ranks at Feyenoord and was given his debut by Ronald Koeman in April 2012. After joining the French champions AS Monaco for a reported £13.5 million fee, he got a move to the Premier League and played a key role in keeping Huddersfield up in 2017/18.
Kongolo certainly looked like an appealing loan when he first arrived at Craven Cottage in January. The events that occurred after were unfortunate. Parker decided to play him against Manchester City in the fourth round of the FA cup where he picked up an injury that ended his season. I was excited by his arrival to the club and it seemed like an extremely astute piece of business. The injury he picked up was just pure bad luck and unfortunately, we never got to see him play. Kongolo seems like a perfect fit because he is as adept at left back as he is at centre back and will add Premier League experience to our backline.
Worthwhile Rating – 7/10
Ryan Babel is a 33-year-old Dutch international with his parent club currently being Ajax. He is probably best known to English fans for his time at Liverpool. He joined the Merseyside club all the way back in 2010, coincidently when we were hunting European glory in Hamburg. Babel has played for a series of different clubs ever since he left Liverpool.
Babel is an anomaly in football, especially for a winger because he has got better with age. He has made an incredible 63 appearances for Holland and looks sharper than ever whenever he plays international football. I would say people were sceptical when he joined Fulham in January under Slavisa Jokanovic. I don’t think anybody could have predicted the quality and pace he provided for us in that short spell; he was a shining light in a very dim season. Despite this I have to say at 33 and him being a winger, I do not see the appeal in signing him this time around. I would not be focusing on strengthening in the wing position, I feel as though we have enough there already and there is more to come from the likes of Anthony Knockaert and Ivan Cavaleiro.
Worthwhile Rating – 3/10
Maitland Niles is an England under 21 international and has just enjoyed his breakthrough season at North London club Arsenal. He is a versatile player who can play both in midfield and defence, however, Mikel Arteta believed his best position was at right back. At only 22 years old Maitland Niles has caught the eye at the top level and managed 20 appearances in the Premier League last season.
I alluded to the fact that we needed to add quality in the right back spot earlier and Maitland Niles might just be the man for the job. Despite only being 22 years old he showed real quality under Arteta and helped Arsenal to yet another FA Cup. I don’t know how likely it is that we will be able to pick him up, even if it was only a loan, but I would certainly not say no if we were given the opportunity.
Worthwhile Rating – 8/10